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Lompoc May Revise ‘Presence’ Restrictions for Sex Offenders

The City of Lompoc is poised to repeal its stringent requirements on where registered sex offenders can visit, a change stemming from a lawsuit filed by a Grover Beach man.

Frank Lindsay sued Lompoc on April 21 in federal district court, the latest in his civil liberties battle against communities that implement strict rules regarding people, like him, who appear on the Megan’s Law registry.

He was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age in 1979, but has not been convicted of a felony since then.

During its meeting Tuesday night, the Lompoc City Council is set to consider amending the city’s ordinance and other matters related to its rules for registered sex offenders and the lawsuit, according to the draft agenda.

"We are recommending that the council take these actions in order to respond to recent litigation in California's high courts on these issues," Assistant City Attorney Lindsay Tabaian said Thursday.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Lompoc City Hall, 100 Civic Center Plaza.

“We’re pleased with what the city attorney is recommending to them,” said Lindsay’s Santa Maria Valley-based attorney, Janice Bellucci.

She is president of the board of directors for California Reform Sex Offender Laws. The nonprofit group seeks to amend the laws in California, one of four states where sex offenders must register for life.

In 2012, Lompoc adopted rules prohibiting registered sexual offenders from loitering anywhere on the grounds of or within 300 feet of any child-care center, public or private school, park, public library, commercial establishment that provides a child’s playground either in or adjacent to the establishment, locations that hold classes or group activities for children, and any school bus stop.

“The most important thing, and the reason for filing the lawsuit, is to challenge their presence restrictions, “ Bellucci said.

As of this week, Lompoc had 53 people listed on the Megan’s Law list.

Lompoc’s more severe restrictions came six years after California voters approved Proposition 83 or “Jessica’s Law,” which bars sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park.

However, Jessica’s Law “does not expressly permit local governments to enact ordinances that restrict where a registered sex offender may temporarily be present,” according to the lawsuit against Lompoc.

The lawsuit sought to have the Lompoc law “declared null and void as unconstitutionally vague and in violation of the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution” plus the California Constitution’s Article XI, Section 7.

In January, the California Court of Appeal invalidated similar ordinances in Irvine and Orange County.

Bellucci contends in the lawsuit that Lompoc’s ordinance “restricts significantly more lawful activity than the Irvine and Orange County ordinances.”

The lawsuit claims it is “unreasonable” for Lompoc to expect a registrant visiting the city to know where the child-safety zones are located.

“It is virtually impossible for any registrant to comply with the ordinance unless he or she can be absolutely certain and/or is made clearly aware of the boundaries of every child-safety zone within Lompoc city limits,” the lawsuit states.

The council will consider amending portions of the Lompoc Municipal Code regarding loitering by registered sex offenders to align with the California Penal Code, which says a registrant who "loiters about any school or public place at or near which children attend or normally congregate" could be guilty of a misdemeanor.  e Ordinance's current requirement for registered sex offenders to remain 300 feet from numerous child-centric locations in the city.

Additionally, council members will be asked to approve the settlement agreement with Lindsay, but those details weren’t available. The lawsuit sought attorney’s fees plus “such relief as the court deems just and proper.”

The council also will consider authorizing the Lompoc Police Department to temporarily halt enforcement of laws regulating residency of registered sex offenders until the California Supreme Court has issued a final decision in a case challenging Jessica’s Law.

"Due to the Supreme Court's acceptance of review in this case, we have recommended that the city stay its residency restrictions until we know the final state of the law on this issue," Tabaian said.

Until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on residency restrictions, sexual offenders on the registry remain in limbo, according to Bellucci.

“This is more than an inconvenience to 100,000 people,” Bellucci said. “One hundred thousand people don’t know where they can live without breaking the law.”

The number of people affected actually is much larger because the restrictions also affect families of registered sex offenders, she added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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